A Cumbrian manufacturing firm is benefiting from a £2.6 million investment to protect its premises from flooding.

Cockermouth based James Walker and Co, one of the county’s largest employers over the last 50 years, is using the investment from Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership to safeguard its site and secure the jobs of over 400 employees.

The company says the work will allow it to press ahead with a capital investment of £9.8m to expand its engineering, manufacturing and testing facilities and create 30 additional jobs over the coming years.

Storm Desmond caused flooding to a depth of over a metre at the Cockermouth site in 2015 – a repeat of the flood event seen in 2009.

The new flood protection measures are designed to offer protection from a ‘one in 1000’ flood event and consist of a flood wall around the firm’s production buildings, constructed with sheet piling to prevent ground flow, supplemented with equipment such as pumps and automated floodgates.

All work involved in the building of the defences and installation of ancillary equipment has been carried out by Story Contracting, as part of James Walker’s policy of supporting the local Cumbrian supply chain wherever possible.

Cumbria LEP chief executive Jo Lappin said: “James Walker and Co is a dynamic global manufacturer which supplies a vast range of products and services to all sorts of industry sectors.

“This is a key investment in flood alleviation measures, which are delivering strategic flood defence improvements to support our economic growth in the county and protect our key businesses such as James Walker, helping ensure future resilience and sustainability.

“It is part of a major Growth Deal programme of investment which has been ongoing since 2015 to support Cumbria’s economy and to help our businesses to grow.”

Jake Berry, minister for the Northern Powerhouse and local growth, said: “This government is committed to boosting economic growth across the whole of the Northern Powerhouse and building an economy which is fit for the future.

“This £2.6 million investment from the Local Growth Fund will not only protect this important industrial site from flooding but also safeguard hundreds of jobs and drive further investment in the economy of Cumbria.”

James Walker and Co produces a vast range of high performance fluid sealing products and associated services.

The company’s activities cover research and development of new materials, product application engineering and the manufacture of products to ensure the safe, clean and efficient operation of critical plant and machinery in virtually every industrial sector.

Last year it ditched plans to relocate to Lillyhall, near Workington, opting instead to invest in protecting its Cockermouth site from future floods.

Mark Brook, manufacturing director from James Walker, said: “Cumbria LEP’s investment in our site infrastructure will help future-proof the company against the disruption caused by storm and flood damage, and helps secure the jobs for whole families and generations of employees in the business.

“This Local Growth Funding allows us to focus on growing the business and maintain our position as a global leader in the design and manufacture of high-performance fluid sealing products and systems.”